How embedded is public involvement in mainstream health research in England a decade after policy implementation? A realist evaluation
Objectives: To explore how embedded patient and public involvement is within mainstream health research following two decades of policy-driven work to underpin health research with patient and public involvement in England. Methods: Realist evaluation using Normalization Process Theory as a programme theory to understand what enabled patient and public involvement to be embedded as normal practice. Data were collected through a national scoping and survey, and qualitative methods to track patient and public involvement processes and impact over time within 22 nationally funded research projects. Results: In research studies that were able to create reciprocal working relationships and to embed patient and public involvement this was contingent on: the purpose of patient and public involvement being clear; public contributors reflecting research end-beneficiaries; researchers understanding the value of patient and public involvement; patient and public involvement opportunities being provided throughout the research and ongoing evaluation of patient and public involvement. Key contested areas included: whether to measure patient and public involvement impact; seeking public contributors to maintain a balance between being research-aware and an outsider standpoint seen as ‘authentically’ lay; scaling-up patient and public involvement embedded within a research infrastructure rather than risk token presence and whether patient and public involvement can have a place within basic science. Conclusions: While patient and public involvement can be well-integrated within all types of research, policy makers should take account of tensions that must be navigated in balancing moral and methodological imperatives.
Published inJournal of Health Services Research and Policy
RelationsSchool of Health and Social Work
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